World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

You are here: Home / Press centre / News / Patriarch Alexy II: a powerful voice, constructive and critical

Patriarch Alexy II: a powerful voice, constructive and critical

Patriarch Alexy II: a powerful voice, constructive and critical

Patriarch Alexy II during an official visit to the WCC offices in Geneva in 1995 © Peter Williams/WCC

05 December 2008

With "deep sadness" the officers of the World Council of Churches (WCC), who were meeting in Geneva this week, received word of the death of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Alexy II.

Alexy II died at his residence outside Moscow today, at the age of 79. The patriarch had led the Russian Orthodox Church since 1990. The church counts the majority of Russia's 142.5 million people among its members.

In a 5 December letter to the Russian Orthodox Church, the WCC officers paid tribute to "a church leader respected by many for his genuine commitment to his church and people, for his pastoral sensitivity, for his courageous stand facing the many challenges of the world."

"The WCC and the ecumenical movement have lost today a leading figure, a powerful voice that knew how and when to be supportive and constructive but also how and when to be vigilant and critical," the letter continues. The WCC officers include the general secretary of the WCC and moderator and co-moderators of the WCC Central Committee.

From the 1960s, Alexy II was seen as being one of the most vigorous supporters of the movement for church unity. He played a major role in theological dialogue with Protestant churches in Germany and Finland and held a seat on the WCC Central Committee. But his most important ecumenical contribution was as a senior officer in the Conference of European Churches, beginning in 1964 as a member of its presidium and serving as its president from 1987 until 1992.

Full text of the tribute by the WCC officers

Biography of Patriarch Alexy II on the website of the Russian Orthodox Church

Obituary by Ecumenical News International

Video interview of Georges Lemopoulos, WCC deputy general secretary, on the RT spotlight channel